Deliberative Conversation 12-3-19
From Jill Anderson
Building Community in Times of Social Unrest
December 3, 2019 from 5:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
Guiding Document By: Dr. Rhianna Rogers, Rockefeller Institute of Government – Ernst Boyer Presidential Fellow and Buffalo Faculty
How can we build community in times of unrest?
Recent political and cultural tensions in the Trump era, including the rise of extremist perspectives in liberal and conservative populations, has increased the need for more cross-cultural competencies across diverse US peoples. It is with these tensions in mind, that I believe that developing intercultural competencies are no longer an option, but a fundamental part of engaging others in respectful dialogue.
That said, in order to understand the impacts of socio-cultural unrest in our lives, we must first define where the term(s) originate and how they are defined. Social unrest can be defined as a collective dissatisfaction with a particular event, activity or outcome. It tends to result in behaviors that disrupt the typical social order of life. Civil unrest, a related term typically used by law enforcement, is term used to describe disruptive situations — a riot, protest, or strike — caused by a group of people. Both terms are related, but differ based on the perspective you take on the topic.
Social/Civil unrest are often fueled by disagreements around politics; racial, gender or income inequality; discrimination; or health care issues. While many of these gatherings begin peacefully, but they can quickly turn violent if not handles appropriately by all involved parties. As witnessed on multiple media outlets in the US and abroad, Social/Civil unrest can lead to arrests, injuries and destruction of the community and nearby businesses.
Generally speaking, there are three levels of Social/Civil unrest:
- The lowest level of civil unrest is when people turn on their own neighborhoods. This type of unrest is spontaneous and localized, primarily impacting those who live, work, or travel in the immediate area.
- The next level of unrest is focused on a single area where protestors deliberately target a business district, facility, transportation system, or an organization to impose maximum disruption. This type of unrest occurred during the 99% and #BlackLivesMatter movements. This level of protest requires planning and organization to choose a target and deliberately disrupt the normalcy of daily life and business. Many groups are impacted.
- The final level of civil unrest causes a disruption at a regional or state level, affecting everyone in the region. This also can expand to a national or even international level. This example can be seen in the 2019 Lebanon WhatsApp Demonstrations. After the election of President Donald Trump in November 2016, thousands of individuals protested in 25 cities across the United States. While many of these were peaceful, unrest broke out in Oakland, Calif. and Portland, Ore. In Portland, the peaceful assembly quickly turned destructive as the crowd grew and angry protestors took to the streets. In the end, property and business damages were estimated to cost over $1 million and more than 100 people were arrested.
What are Deliberative Conversations?
Deliberative Conversations at SUNY Empire grew out of a partnership between the college’s Division of Student Affairs-Student Life and the Buffalo Project. These conversations are an effort to increase cultural awareness, interaction and discussion among students, faculty, and staff around difficult topics. The uniqueness of the Deliberative Conversations format is that it is meant to intentionally bring together individuals who represent diverse perspectives around a topic; sometimes difficult or controversial, to advocate for tangible, joint solutions that give a voice to all invested in the conversation. This specific Deliberative Conversation connects to the Spring 2020 International Education/Buffalo Project/Rockefeller Institute of Government Virtual Residency around the same topic.
What are Virtual Residencies?
Virtual Residencies (VR) at SUNY Empire State College connect undergraduate, graduate and international education courses via a 3 week collaborative online module, which usually consists of joint asynchronous discussions, joint asynchronous assignment(s), and a synchronous/asynchronous keynote address by an expert in the thematic field for that term.
While these events may seem isolated, they are not. Protests continue to happen across the country, impacting communities and businesses along the way. Once social unrest manifests itself it can trigger further consequences and lead to secondary risks outside of the area in which the unrest originally occurred. In a globalized society unrest can act as trigger of transboundary ramifications, small local events (e.g. the #MeToo movement and its spread across the world) can cause "snowball effects" world-wide.
Author Terri Howard’s 2018 article, Civil Unrest and Employees: When Community Concerns Become Workplace Challenges, suggests the following issues when analyzing this topic social:
- it is unclear how different causes and combination of causes interact with each other (moderating or increasing the effect) and with the outcome of social unrest;
- it is not clear how modifying and moderating factors influence the causal relationship;
- at this point time, neither the causes nor the intervening factors or social unrest are known to science leading to social unrest;
- within such an model of unrest a distinction between factors (variables that describe the more the context that leads to social unrest) and triggers (variables that drive a situation in which the context is very likely for social unrest to it)seems to suitable.
This conversations offers a few strategies in support of this premise. (Howard, 2018, para.11)
Framing Materials and Discussion Outcomes
As part of this conversation, we asked you to review the 2017 document Key Considerations for Community Leaders Facing Civil Unrest: Effective Problem-Solving Strategies That Have Been Used in Other Communities by Divided Community Project The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law. You can read the document here: https://cdn.ymaws.com/ncbp.org/resource/resmgr/2017_midyear_meeting/Key-Considerations-January-2.pdf
When framing this conversation we hope students answer the following questions:
Question #1: What types of behaviors should we exhibit and academic programming should we create in college sets to help mitigate issues of social unrest in society? How can we help when instances of social unrest occur within the college or affecting colleagues within the college?
Question #2: What practices do you employ when discussing controversial social, political, religions and other topics? Do these strategies differ across and within different environments (work, school, family, friends, and strangers)?
Question #3: What strategies can we employ to be better equip the ESC community and critically thinking and civically-minded citizens?